Lamborghini has nothing close to a racing heritage in its past. But that doesn't mean it's too late to start. The Super Trofeo series is that start. And it's an absolutely incredible one. Here's what it's like to drive one of the fastest sports cars in the world.
(Full Disclosure: Lamborghini wanted me to drive the Gallardo Super Trofeo race car so bad that they invited me to Virginia International Raceway to do a few laps in the car. Superstar photog Jamey Price was on hand to capture it all. See more of his work here.)
Super Trofeo is a one-make series that uses a specially prepared Gallardo for a few events across North America. Think Ferrari 458 Challenge, just with bulls instead of horses. Races cost $17,500 per event, which sounds steep, but is actually on par with Ferrari 458 Challenge and undercuts a number of other gentleman driver entry fees.
The Gallardo itself has a stock engine and transmission, which means it has 570 horsepower, all-wheel-drive, and the e-gear sequential shift. It does have a whole new aerokit, including a truly outrageous rear diffuser that looks like it'll till a field with ease. This is a crazy looking car in person, just what you'd expect from Lambo. It also has an Ohlins suspension, race brakes, and Pirelli slicks. The interior has also been stripped.
Yeah, this is a race car.
It's also the fastest single-make race series in North America today, with top speeds north of 200 MPH. People were touching the mid-170s on the back stretch at VIR.
My first impression of the car came in a ride along with defacto series champ Kevin Conway . This would be my first ever lap around VIR, a track I've only heard great things about, but never actually driven. Or even seen a map of.
After my brief ride, where I learned precisely none of the track, it was time to get behind the wheel. My whole thing when testing a car I don't know on a track I've never seen is not to screw it up. All I need is a wrecked $225,000 Lambo race car on my hands. I don't make enough in a week to buy one of those. Not even two weeks.
Still, I tried not to drive like a little girl on the track I didn't know in the car I didn't want to break. Here are the four things I learned.
Number one, these brakes are eye poppingly amazing. Kevin took the car far deeper into the braking zone than I thought possible and we didn't crash into a ditch and burn to the ground. There is still ABS, but it isn't super intrusive and only engages when it really needs to.
Number two, it seriously shines on corner exit. All-wheel drive makes it fly like a horse hit with a caddle prod. I was amazed coming out of every single corner at just how hooked up the Gallardo was. And then it really gets up to speed, in my case, I topped out at 165 on the back straight. Not quite as fast as the guys in the race, but I think respectable for never seeing the track before.
Number three, this is a more complex machine to drive fast than the Aston Martin V8 Vantage GT4. I got in that and instantly felt confident because it was described as a big Spec Miata.
The Lambo felt like it could bite you at any second if you are slightly off. And I'm not wrong, don't let the promise of all-wheel drive traction fool you. The Aston was a point and shoot car, but the Gallardo needs you to be in a smooth rhythm. It's a professional dance partner and expects you to not step on its toes.
These cars apparently eat tires, after 10 to 15 laps you're sliding all over the place unless you're good at tire management. They drilled that into people's heads on Saturday morning, but apparently tires still went off and cars ended up being sideways more often than not.
Number four, the Gallardo's gearbox, which can be truly awful on the street, is fantastic on the track. When you're going 25 MPH through downtown Miami, it's an uncomfortable reminder that you're in a Lamborghini. On track, the violence of the e-gear transmission finally makes sense.
Lamborghini brands the series as the "fastest single make race series in the world," and that's fitting for the Lamborghini perception of being the most extreme TO THE MAX mode of transportation you can buy. Of course, they measure "fastest" in terms of top speed, not lap times.
Not that it really matters. The car should speak for itself, and it does. It sounds like a Norse God of unholy Italian horsepower... which I'm pretty sure is a thing. It's looks are scarier than Darth Vader without a mask on. And, best of all, it just works on the track, which is the last thing you'd expect from a Lambo.
And racing a Ferrari or a Porsche, that's kind of cliche, isn't it? Sure, the competition level is higher in Ferrari Challenge or Porsche GT3 Cup right now, but that's because those series are very well established and have a long, long history.
This doesn't have any history at all, and there are already about a dozen cars at each race. Give it some time, and I bet this will be a success. Plus, how many people get to say they're racing a Lamborghini? Basically none people.
That's worth it.
Photo Credits: Jamey Price